3 ways online courses could become more like iTunes

Thanks to MIT, modularization could soon be an oft-repeated phrase in online education

Copyright Bloom Design / Shutterstock.com

Members of the MIT task force, who were asked to examine ways a college education could become more accessible, more affordable, and more effective, pointed to the concept of “modularization” as a key to improving the traditional web-based class model and the nontraditional massive open online course (MOOC).

The task force suggested breaking courses into modules — or learning units meant to be studied in sequence but separately. This approach would mimic a person’s ability to purchase bits and pieces of an artist’s music from Apple iTunes, they said.

“Much like a playlist on iTunes, a student could pick and choose the elements of a calculus or a biology course offered across the edX platform to meet his or her needs, but for most effective learning, modular units must be integrated into the whole,” the task force wrote in its final report. “Thus, while the effort to study and complete a module may be more accessible, the effort to integrate the information into a complete class remains significant but may be facilitated by incremental learning.”

Taking the iTunes approach would offer more “malleability” and “fluidity” to online learning — two elements that seem to be missing from the platform as only a sliver of students complete courses available on edX, where 5.1 percent of students finish classes and earn a certificate.

Faculty support for the modularization of online education was spotty, however.

(Next page: Faculty survey results)

"(Required)" indicates required fields